Aadhaar: UIDAI and the ‘fifth column’ of Napoleon—Part 19

Most of those who are in public life are in the ‘fifth column’ because of either their naivety or their seemingly apolitical tunnel vision for UIDAI’s Aadhaar project, which makes them act treacherously in a historical vacuum


It is said that once on a military campaign Napoleon Bonaparte, a military and political leader of France, stood outside his tent in the battlefield facing the most fortified castle of an European city and said, “Once this city is taken, nothing will stop my campaign, and I'll soon be Emperor of France" with my five army columns. Everybody knew about his four columns of army but not the fifth. When asked about his 5th column, Napoleon replied, "My fifth column is within the city itself!” Soon the gate keepers of the castle were clubbed to death, the huge gates swung open, and Napoleon's soldiers marched through. The "fifth columnists" told him about the barracks full of soldiers kept to defend the city. Napoleon woke them and asked them to join him or die. The city fell in no time and Napoleon did indeed go on to become Emperor of France with the help of the fifth columnists.
 

There is an unacknowledged relationship between the biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar project and the US-based National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). The latter was set up in 1919 to scale up the war effort during World War-I. Since then, it has been “promoting national security” of the US and 'institutionalising' Biometrics Enabled Identification based on Automatic Identification Technologies (AIT). The same National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored Unique Identification (UID) Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG) that was organised “in March 2005  at the suggestion of the US Department of Defence (DoD) UID Program Manager to serve as a defense industry focal point for government-industry collaboration and coordination in developing UID implementation policy and procedures.”
 

Notably, Defence Procurement and acquisition policy office in the US DoD has a Unique Identification” (UID) section for “in tracking and reporting the value of items the Government owns”, “Item Unique Identification (IUID) Standards for Tangible Personal Property” and “Unique Identification (UID) Standards for a Net-Centric Department of Defense” that cites “Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO) Memorandum, “DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy”” dated 9 May 2003.
 

It is stated that IUID requirement does not apply to “software, manuals, etc.” and “commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items” but it applies to “not-for-profit contracts such as research contracts with universities”, “classified items”, “foreign military sales”, “small businesses”, “government-furnished property”, “Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) requests” “models, prototypes, or development items delivered to DoD”. 
 

US Department of Defence uses both Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID). “Within IUID, the unique item identifier (UII) is a piece of data associated with an item that uniquely identifies it throughout its life. RFID is a vehicle for holding and sharing data. IUID of tangible items deals with physical markings applied directly (or indirectly via label, data plate, etc.) on items. IUID also requires data to be captured about the item and submitted electronically to a registry database. It is thought of as creating a birth certificate for the item. On a superficial level, IUID and RFID employ different technologies. IUID utilises an optically scannable 2-dimensional data matrix barcode to carry information whereas RFID utilises some form of integrated circuitry to encode information and produce radio waves which can be received and interpreted at a greater distance with a radio antenna and receiver.
 

Notably, RFID has been recommended in India for installation vehicles and libraries. A briefing paper of Government of India observed that “Information or an opinion about an individual” is personal sensitive information.
 

Functionally, IUID’s purpose within the (US) DoD is “to uniquely identify individual items”. The purpose of RFID within the (US) DoD is “to identify cases, pallets, or packages which contain items”. UID Policy Office of US DoD has a number of working groups to support the development and implementation of the UID policy. These include Working Groups on: Logistics IUID Task Force, Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG), Wide Area Work Flow (WAWF)/UID/RFID Users Group, Property Management, Joint Aeronautical Commanders, Government Furnished Property Industry, Federal Acquisition Regulation, Business Rules, Standards, Implementation, Technical Interface and IUID Quality Assurance.
 

Biometrics technology companies like Raytheon Company who were awarded by National Defense Industrial Association in 2009 participated in the ILAG. They have created an artificial need to sell their surveillance products in India unmindful of its dehumanising ramifications. It is these entities which are behind the biometric UID/Aadhaar project and the Bill to sell their products.
 

The preamble of The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 which was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance reveals that it is meant “for the purpose of issuing identification numbers to individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”. There are two parts to the phrase “individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”.

 

The first part refers to “resident” as an individual usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area in India.” This motivated definition of the term resident in the Section 2 (q) of the NIDAI Bill accords wide scope to the Bill. It leaves the definition vague about the Indians who are residing abroad temporarily, non-resident Indians (NRIs), persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and refugees. By now, Indians know that there are NRIs and PIOs of all ilk and shades whose role merits rigorous attention. The second part of the phrase is “certain other classes of individuals”. The first part is defined but the second part has not been defined.

 

The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2013 which was re-approved by the Union Cabinet on 8 October 2013 was listed for introduction in the winter session of the Parliament between 5th to 18 December 2013, but it could not be introduced. In the new version, “certain other classes of individuals” have been substituted with “certain other categories of individuals to enable establishing the identity.”

 

In the NIDAI Bill 2010, Section 4(3) reads, “An Aadhaar number shall, subject to authentication, be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder.”

 

In the NIDAI Bill, 2013, Section 4 (3) reads, “An Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form, subject to authentication and other conditions as may be specified by regulations, shall be accepted as proof of identity and proof of address.” Along with it is added an “Explanation—For the purposes of this sub-section, the expression “electronic form” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in clause (r) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
 

Section 9 of the Bill reads: “The Authority shall not require any individual to give information pertaining to his race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health.” The issue here is once someone has been biometrically profiled and identified ‘Prohibition on requiring certain information’ becomes irrelevant. But the question is how biometric information is less sensitive than information regarding race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health collection of which is prohibited?
 

Section 10 of the Bill reads: The Authority shall take special measures to issue Aadhaar number to women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, migrant unskilled and un-organised workers, nomadic tribes or to such other persons who do not have any permanent dwelling house and such other categories of individuals as may be specified by regulations.” It does not reveal or define the “special measures” being deployed to trap these categories of people in the database.

 

The Bill makes a specific distinction between the “identity information” in respect of an individual means biometric information, demographic information and Aadhaar number of such individuals” and “demographic information” that includes information relating to the name, age, gender and address of an individual (other than race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health), and such other information as may be specified in the regulations for the purpose of issuing an Aadhaar number. It refers to “biometric information” as “a set of such biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations.” It is important to note that although Planning Commission or Ministry of Home Affairs does not have the legal mandate to collect biometric data instead of seeking that mandate under the NIDAI Bill, there is once again an effort being made to do it through sub-ordinate legislation.

 

The Bill defines “Central Identities Data Repository” (CIDR) as “a centralised database in one or more locations containing all Aadhaar numbers issued to Aadhaar number holders along with the corresponding demographic information and biometric information of such individuals and other information related thereto.” It is not made clear as to why CIDR will be at “one or more locations.”

 

Now, if one looks at the definition of “authentication” in the Bill which is defined as “the process wherein, Aadhaar number along with other attributes (including biometrics) are submitted to the Central Identities Data Repository for its verification and such Repository verifies the correctness thereof on the basis of information or data or documents available with it,” it implies that authentication using CIDR of an “Aadhaar number holder”, an individual who has been issued an Aadhaar number, will be done at “one or more locations.”

 

It is quite apparent that these locations can be private companies. In effect, a private company of Indian or/and foreign origin will authenticate whether a resident of India is definitely the same person as he/she claims to be. As an implication identity of an Indian citizen is going to be decided by a company, which can be a National Information Utility (NIU), a private company with a public purpose with a profit making as the motive but not maximising profit.     
 

Most of those who are in public life are in the fifth column because of either their naivety or their seemingly apolitical tunnel vision which makes them act treacherously in a historical vacuum. It is evident that in India, knowingly or unknowingly many institutions and individuals are acting like this column, a party that is acting with the foreign and corporate entities to subvert the very idea of India and Indian civilisation under the influence of their supervisors.
 

Do Indians need to ponder over—who all are in the fifth column, which institutions are acting like this column and isn’t there a need to know the identity of those in the column in question?
 

You may also want to read…

 

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I
 

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II
 

Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part III
 

Marketing and advertising blitzkrieg of biometric techies and supporters -Part IV
 

History of technologies reveals it is their owners who are true beneficiaries -Part V
 

UID's promise of service delivery to poor hides IT, biometrics industry profits –Part VI
 

Technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation? -Part VII
 

Surveillance through biometrics-based Aadhaar –Part VIII
 

Narendra Modi biometrically profiled. What about Congress leaders?-Part IX
 

Aadhaar: Why opposition ruled states are playing partner for biometric UID? -Part X

 

Is Nandan Nilekani acting as an agent of non-state actors? –Part XI

 

Aadhaar and UPA govt's obsession for private sector benefits–Part XII

 

Are Indians being used as guinea pigs of biometric technology companies? -Part XIV
 

Aadhaar: Is the biometric data of human body immortal and ageless? Part XV
 

Aadhaar: The propaganda of transnational vested interests –Part XVI

 

Aadhaar: Pakistan handed over, India giving database on a platter– Part XVII
 

Engineered row in US-India relations, an attention diversion tactics of big brothers?—Part XVIII

 

(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

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Engineered row in US-India relations, an attention diversion tactics of big brothers?—Part 18

The Devyani Khobragade row appears to be a motivated act ahead of a verdict of the US District Court pointing out the unconstitutionality of NSA program of indiscriminately collecting electronic data

In the context of the current row between governments of the US and India, did our President and the Prime Minister wonder as to how US companies like Accenture which have been awarded contract for so called de-duplication of  ‘big data’ of Indians by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) can use the data to the disadvantage of Indians? It is reliably learnt that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had raised concerns against biometric UID project as well. 
 

Responding to a question on what should a journalist choose when there is a conflict between truth and national interest, without pausing even for a moment one Professor of journalism from a university in US who visited Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in 1999-2000 said, journalists should choose national interest. Clearly, truth is a casualty not only in war but also in journalism.
 

One has repeatedly heard it said that most of US media in general are an extension of the foreign policy of government of US as they consistently indulge in jingoistic reporting. One is witnessing the same in the current row in US-India relations. Indian media is doing the same.
 

What media in US, India and elsewhere in general seems to be failing to see through is that it is an engineered rift to create a miasma wherein the new disclosures about the 5-Eyes alliance of five English-speaking countries (US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) for the purpose of sharing intelligence does not occupy centre stage. These disclosures of classified information were made by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at US’ National Security Agency (NSA). The row might be aimed at taking this expose off the public memory. It is information warfare of sort. This alliance is directed against countries like India. Under the agreement among the alliance members interception, collection, acquisition, analysis, and decryption is conducted by each of them for an automatic sharing of intelligence.
 

This alliance comprises of the US National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The intelligence partnership was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War ahead of transfer of power to India by UK. These “eyes” did not need to infiltrate India’s intelligence system because they were embedded there from the outset. Given such a backdrop, the entry of cyber Trojan horses in modern communications systems deployed by these  Indian  agencies cannot be ruled out because there is nothing in public domain to suggest that it was debugged. Not surprisingly, officials  of Indian intelligence agencies have been seceding to join the alliance of these “eyes” with remarkable ease. In view of the same, the conception of converging “the entire country into one single communication entity” introduced in 1975 with the help of a UN agency whose complicity with these “five eyes” stands exposed needs to be revisited.  
 

Besides the Five Eyes with the addition of Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway, it becomes a 9-Eyes alliance for conducting espionage. The role of the media houses like BBC, Reuters, Associated Press etc from these countries which form part of the alliances merits rigorous content analysis to examine whether or not the alliance of their native countries influences their reporting or not.
 

The Devyani Khobragade row  appear to be a motivated act ahead of the verdict of the US District Court for the District of Columbia pointing out the unconstitutionality of NSA program of indiscriminately collecting electronic data to take the public attention away from this verdict. It has been revealed that our prime minister, president and almost all the ministers have all been under the surveillance of NSA.
 

The verdict was passed on 16 December 2013. The verdict attempts to safeguard the interests of citizens of USA. This is not applicable to non-US citizens because US laws do not recognize the rights of privacy of non-US citizens to be sacrosanct.  This implies that rights of privacy of Indian citizens do not have protection either under the Indian laws, US laws or any international law at present.
 

It must be noted that companies like Ernst & Young (E&Y), UK and Safran Group (of France) who have got contract from UIDAI are from the countries which are part of this alliance. The core question is that if our President and Prime Minister appear seemingly unperturbed in the face of glaring evidence of they having been subject of surveillance, how they can be trusted for safeguarding the right to privacy of citizens? Had it not been an election year, it is quite likely that they would not have protested against the arrest and body cavity search of Devyani Khobragade, India’s Deputy Counsel General in New York.  Had this not been the case the concerned authorities and ruling parties would have reacted similarly in the incidents concerning Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, George Fernandes, Hardeep Singh, and Shah Rukh Khan to name a few.
 

It is evident that India’s geostrategic position in relation to the US in particular and all its alliance members in general have been compromised by politicians who have kept personal interest above national interest. Proceedings of Indian Parliament bear witness to the prevarications of the politicians of the ruling party in the matter of the arrest, release and extradition of Warren Anderson, former chief executive (CEO) of Union Carbide Corp (UCC), of US who faces criminal case in India for having caused industrial genocide in Bhopal and who is currently an absconder under Indian laws. There is documentary evidence accessed through Right to Information (RTI) that reveals that several of the serving ministers including an industrialist have wrongly argued that UCC’s inheritor, Dow Chemicals Co, US does not have any liability for the Bhopal genocide. Even the current leader of the opposition and a member of Parliament (MP) from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and party’s spokesperson gave a written legal opinion along with Congress MP and spokesperson of the party to this effect. In the aftermath of Devyani Khobragade episode one wonders that had Indian politicians sought Anderson’s extradition and fixed the liability of UCC without resorting to uncalled for quid pro quo, such incidents of taking Indians and Indian officials for granted would not have happened.  
 

Once again the sincerity of the statements made by political leaders across parties faces a litmus test as to whether it is an empty posturing meant only for public consumption when the election campaigns are underway or they are honestly concerned about safeguarding the prestige of the country and its national interest.
 

In a seemingly unrelated but relevant development, on 5 December 2013 Economic Times reported that India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) has questioned issuing of UID/Aadhaar number to the foreigners and refugees from other countries. Notably, it is not clear as to how many citizens of the nine countries of the intelligence gathering alliance are currently residing in India.  IB raised these objections on 6 November 2013 at a meeting of senior officials of the investigative agency, the home ministry and UIDAI. The UIDAI has argued that any non-resident Indian (NRI) or foreign citizen living in India can apply for Aadhaar since it is only meant for establishing identity and not citizenship.
 

This submission of UIDAI is an exercise in sophistry. The fact is that UIDAI is working with Election Commission of India to merge the electoral database with the Centralized Identity Data Repository (CIDR) of UID/Aadhaar numbers. Relying on prime minister’s patronage UIDAI appears to be taking even IB for a ride.  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is rightly arguing that since ultimately both CIDR of UIDAI and National Population Register (NPR) data of MHA is going to be collated the issue of citizenship is likely to get confounded. What is apparent is that this confusion is part of the design and not a product of default. IB is right in seeking background checks of private players involved with the UIDAI. It must be done before it is too late or before it becomes structurally subservient to foreign agencies due to the unfolding ‘solutions architecture’.
 

In the verdict of US District Court, Judge Richard Leon rules, “I cannot imagine a more "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary invasion" than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on "that degree of privacy" that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware of "the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power," would be aghast.” Madison, the fourth President of USA is considered the father of US Constitution. The 68-page verdict is attached.  
 

This verdict is readily applicable to the “indiscriminate” biometric and demographic databases being created in India by the Planning Commission’s UIDAI and MHA’s Registrar General & Census Commissioner for NPR  besides National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), the Indian incarnation of NSA. Framers of Constitution of India too would be “aghast” at such “systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.” Indeed these initiatives along with the bitterly opposed proposal of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) Network constitutes “abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power” in our country.
 

In an RTI reply dated 5 December 2013, UIDAI shared the contract agreement it signed on behalf of the President of India acting through Director General of UIDAI, Planning Commission, Government of India (which is the employer) on 17 March 2010 with the consortium consisting of Ernst & Young Pvt Ltd and Netmagic Solutions Pvt Ltd wherein ‘M/s Ernst & Young Pvt Ltd’ is the lead partner and Consultant. Both the RTI applications were filed by Qaneez-e-Fathemah Sukhrani, an urban affairs researcher.  The contract agreement has page numbers only till page no. 26 but the rest of the pages which are appendices including description of services, clarifications of RFP dated 4 January 210 related to RFP, description of methodology, reporting requirements, total cost of services duties of the employer, teaming agreements with consortium partner/individual experts, RFP of UID CIDR Consultant issued by the employer and the pre-qualification, technical and commercial proposal submitted by the Consultant are not numbered.      
 

The description of approach and methodology given the Appendix A: Part C dealing with Contract –UID CIDR Consultant contract agreement with Ernst & Young, a company based in UK, one of the alliance members of Five Eyes interestingly begins with the talisman of Mahatma Gandhi about pondering over how the poorest can get “control over his life and destiny” restored and will have us believe that this is its inspiration to participate in this initiative.

In an earlier RTI reply dated 25 October 2013, UIDAI shared that Ernst & Young order date was 26 February 2010 wherein the value of the contract was mentioned as Rs7.05 crore. The contract agreement with Ernst & Young states that “the Unique ID will be a random 12-digit number with the basis for establishing uniqueness of identity being biometrics”. It announces that “we will provide a Unique Identity to over 113.9 crore people.” This is evidently a fraudulent announcement because UIDAI with which the agreement has been signed has mandate to provide Unique Identity to only 60 crore residents of India and not to 113.9 crore people. The agreement states that it proposes to adopt political, economic, social, technology, legal and environment (PESTLE) framework to cover all key dimensions of the UID program. This framework merits attention for it tantamount to rewriting the political geography of the country with hitherto unknown consequences for political rights.
 

Most startling disclosure from the contract agreement is its admission that “biometric systems are not 100 % accurate”. It admits that “uniqueness of the biometrics is still a postulate.” In an admission that pulverizes the very edifice on which UID/Aadhaar and the NPR rests, it writes, “The loss in information due to limitations of the capture setup or physical conditions of the body, and due (to) the feature representation, there is a non-zero probability that two finger prints or IRIS prints coming from different individuals can be called a match.”  The contract agreement underlines it in bold letters. There appears to be an attempt at verbal gymnastics to hide the key message here. In simple words, “non-zero probability that two finger prints or IRIS prints” turning out to be a match means that there is a probability that biometric data of two different individuals can be identical.
 

With this admission which is rooted in scientific evidence articulated earlier as part of this series, there emerges  a compelling logic to abandon the exercise of creating database of biometric data for identification in favour of pre-existing 15 identity proofs on which Election Commission of India relies for elections and which has been giving legality and legitimacy to the Parliament and the Government of India.            
   

It has been reported based on disclosures of Snowden that US and UK intelligence forces have hacked and planted spyware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide and their number is expected to reach over 85,000 by the end of 2013.
 

In view of the same, in place of counting the numbers of those residents of India enrolled/imprisoned under biometric Aadhaar and NPR at their own cost, national energy ought to focus on questions which have huge ramifications like:
 

Does the Parliament and State Assemblies know as to how many citizens of UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway are currently residing in India at present? How many of them are non-traceable?
 

How many of them are within the country on a valid visa and a valid passport?
 

How many companies from UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are currently operating in India at present?
 

Are Indian agencies and citizens aware that the Five Eyes have “focused cooperation” on mining of computer networks with other countries like Belgium, Italy, South Korea, Turkey and others?
 

This alliance has the capability to directly access internet companies’ data, tapping international fibre optic cables, sabotaging encryption standards and standards bodies, hacking the routers, switches and firewalls that connect the internet together. The facts about their tentacles being present in these countries have been brought to light after the disclosures by Snowden.
 

Does the conduct of these countries and their companies serve India’s national interest?
Do the interests of these countries and companies converge with our interests
?
 

In such a backdrop, instead of continuing with imperial initiatives like biometric Aadhaar and NPR that relies on the companies based in the countries who comprise five eyes alliance, government of India, Indian citizens and political parties need to deal with the attention diversion tactics of this alliance in a deeper and non-conventional manner to undo the harm done by their cyber and non-cyber Trojan horses. The verdict of US District Court against NSA merits the attention of Supreme Court of India when it hears the case against biometric identification based UID/Aadhaar.   
 

You may also want to read…

 

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I
 

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II
 

Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part III
 

Marketing and advertising blitzkrieg of biometric techies and supporters -Part IV
 

History of technologies reveals it is their owners who are true beneficiaries -Part V
 

UID's promise of service delivery to poor hides IT, biometrics industry profits –Part VI
 

Technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation? -Part VII
 

Surveillance through biometrics-based Aadhaar –Part VIII
 

Narendra Modi biometrically profiled. What about Congress leaders?-Part IX
 

Aadhaar: Why opposition ruled states are playing partner for biometric UID? -Part X

 

Is Nandan Nilekani acting as an agent of non-state actors? –Part XI

 

Aadhaar and UPA govt's obsession for private sector benefits–Part XII

 

Are Indians being used as guinea pigs of biometric technology companies? -Part XIV
 

Aadhaar: Is the biometric data of human body immortal and ageless? Part XV
 

Aadhaar: The propaganda of transnational vested interests –Part XVI

 

Aadhaar: Pakistan handed over, India giving database on a platter– Part XVII

 

 

(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

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Aadhaar: HPCL, IOC and BPCL in contempt of Supreme Court order?
As per the Supreme Court's interim order, no one can insist of Aadhaar for any government schemes like ration card, bank account, cash transfer, issue of LPG subsidies and if it is done, it is contempt of court
 
Despite clear directions from the Supreme Court not to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing essential services from the government, oil marketing companies (OMCs) continue to send SMS asking customers to provide their unique identification (UID) number for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy.
 
All state-run OMCs, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Indian Oil Corp (IOC) are sending messages (SMS) to their customers asking them to their Aadhaar numbers with bank and submit to the distributor.
 
This is the SMS that is being sent by the three OMCs to LPG customers across the country...
"Dear XXXgas Consumer, to avail LPG Subsidy in your bank account, kindly submit Your Aadhaar to your Distributor and to your Bank immediately"
 
What is surprising is even before the apex court decision, Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning, told the Lok Sabha on 8 May 2013 that, "Aadhaar card is not mandatory to avail subsidised facilities being offered by the government like LPG cylinders, admission in private aided schools, opening a savings account etc." 
 
Earlier this month, the West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution on Aadhaar or the UID number asking the union government to immediately withdraw the decision to link the UID with direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme. Leader of the Opposition and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) member Surya Kanta Mishra said that the Centre legally cannot make biometric enrolment mandatory and that the entire process was unscientific as there was a scope for margin of error to the extent of 20%.
 
In November 2013, The Kerala state plenum of CPI (M) adopted a resolution, which said, "The government has been pressurising people to open bank accounts and link them to Aadhaar. The decision of oil companies to make Aadhaar-linked bank account compulsory for cooking gas subsidy is unacceptable as only 25% of the country's population had so far obtained the Aadhaar. Also instead of allowing people to open zero-balance accounts, many banks are insisting they should deposit Rs500 to Rs1,000 to open accounts." 
 
A consumer is entitled to receive nine cylinders of LPG per family per year under the subsidised quota. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is trying to link Aadhaar-enabled service delivery to various government schemes such as MNREGA wage payments, PDS distribution, payment of social security benefits like as old-age payments and distribution of LPG cylinders. This is being done without taking stock of the ground level infrastructure and practical difficulties.
 
OMCs insisting upon customers to submit Aadhaar number for availing subsidy for LPG cylinders have not only irked consumers and activists but also some consumer organisations. According to a report from the Hindu, Mangalore-based Gas and Ration Consumers Forum is contemplating filing a public interest litigation (PIL) against attempts to making Aadhaar Card compulsory for availing LPG subsidy.
 
The Forum has sent notices to all three OMCs with copies to Karnataka High Court, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas in New Delhi. K Dharmendra, president of the Forum told newspaper that the Supreme Court order clarified that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for availing any government benefit including LPG subsidy and said the three OMCs were violating the order. "This amounts to contempt of court," he said.
 
On 23 September 2013, while hearing a PIL filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and advocate Parvesh Khanna questioning the legal sanctity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court said, "The centre and state governments must not insist on Aadhaar from citizens before providing them essential services." 
 
Many consumer organisation representatives whom the newspaper spoke to said the government was trying to impose Aadhaar cards on people through the backdoor after Supreme Court struck it down and were harassing the LPG consumers.
 
According to a report from Asian Age, several LPG consumers from Andhra Pradesh have not been getting the subsidy amount though they submitted Aadhaar at banks and gas agencies long ago.
 
Speaking with Citizen Matters, Bangalore, Justice Puttaswamy said, "An interim order is as much as a final order. So presently all these government schemes cannot be imposed upon people. And if it is done, it is contempt of court. The interim order does not mention any names of schemes. But under this, no one can insist of Aadhaar for any government schemes like ration card, bank account, cash transfer, issue of LPG subsidies and so on."
 
What is worst is few customers who have linked their Aadhaar numbers with bank and submitted to LPG distributor are being charged value added tax (VAT) and other duties. Dharmendra of Gas and Ration Consumers Forum told the Hindu that their group would bring to the notice of the High Court that those who link their Aadhaar cards would be made to pay about Rs120 towards taxes.
 
According to a report from the New Indian Express, those who have been over-enthusiastic to follow the government directive to link Aadhaar cards with their bank accounts to avail subsidies for LPG cylinders and other benefits are now ruing their decision. "For, even if the LPG subsidy amount was debited from their accounts, going by the prices of last month, an additional amount of Rs26.65 was deducted from it against VAT." Till the Aadhaar issue cropped up, a VAT amount of Rs20 was being deducted from consumers at the door delivery of cylinders.
 
"In the case of LPG consumers who are yet to opt for Aadhaar linkage, they had paid only around Rs445 per cylinder in September. It will remain the same in October also. But for those with Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, the price was around Rs945 in September. At the time of booking itself, a subsidy component of Rs435 was credited in the bank account of such consumers. In the remaining second subsidy component of Rs109, the deduction of VAT tax was effected," the report said.
 
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COMMENTS

Viraf J Panthaky

5 years ago

Recently, when I had gone to the Ration Office (opp. Allbless Hospital at V. T.) to get my just married daughter's name deleted from my ration card, the lady insisted that ALL family members named in the Ration Card, MUST submit copies of our Aadhar Cards - the only exception being my daughter, whose name I sought to get deleted. Eventually, we were forced to immediately leave all other work aside and stand in line for applying for Aadhar Cards! Does this too boil down to Contempt of Court? Do I have any recourse, as Aadhar Cards could take up to 6 months to receive!

REPLY

Babubhai Vaghela

In Reply to Viraf J Panthaky 5 years ago

File complaint with Chief Minister Maharashtra, Prime Minister and President of India. And, also followup. When they abuse positional power, we are left with no choice but to fight it out including seeking legal recourse.

RAMESH KAPADIA

5 years ago

We read in the papers about the linking of Aadhar card with your bank account to avail subsidy on the gas cylinder otherwise the customer will have to pay about Rs.600/more for the cylinder.We therefore rushed to enroll our names and found that the directive by the oil company is against the ruling of the Apex court which clearly is a case of contempt of court and harassment to the gullible consumers.In the present scenario the print/electronic media should come forward and educate people by conducting a debate.Hope Delhi CM-Designate Kejriwal will take up the matter in the Delhi Assembly at the top most priority.This is the best opportunity for him to show his concern for the AAM ADMI
Ramesh Kapadia

Simple Indian

5 years ago

I too have got such an intimation from BPCL whose LPG connection I have at home in Mumbai suburbs. I already have Aadhar Card/No so had visited my Bharat gas distributor sometime back and submitted the same. Strangely no Form was provided to seed the same into my LPG Consumer No, but I had to merely give a self-attested copy of my Aadhar Card mentioning my Consumer No. on it. Besides, the staff was almost threatening some customers saying that LPG cylinders will be sold to EVERYONE at market rate of Rs. 950 or so after Jan'14, so one HAS TO submit Aadhar Card so they get the DBT on LPG from Govt of India. This is surely a contempt of the SC order and it's amazing how even many PSU and Private Sector Banks have been 'urging' customers to seed their Aadhar No with their Savings A/c. Surprising that neither RBI nor Oil Ministry has acted on such violations as yet.
Moreover, I have a query. I have seeded my Aadhar No. with a PSU Bank as well as a Private Sector Bank (salary a/c). As my LPG distributor has only asked for copy of my Aadhar Card/No and no reference to Bank Details is mentioned thereof, which Bank A/c will the DBT be credited ?

Prithvi Karnati

5 years ago

Why gas agencies still asking aadhar ?

Fumkychicken

5 years ago

Read the message in full.. If you want subsidy as cash you can link aadhaar to your bank account. Nothing is denied if you fail to do so. and it is one of the best way to eradicate fake and multiole connections.As long as it is not made mandatory, it is not against the law.

Babubhai Vaghela

5 years ago

Dismiss Board of Directors of Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum.

Mukesh kamath

5 years ago

So ML has hired people to second your articles and views.

REPLY

ABHA CHAWLA MOHANTY

In Reply to Mukesh kamath 5 years ago

they have????,....INTERESTING.. MR MUKESH KAMATH YOU ON pay rolls ???.

Simple Indian

5 years ago

Seems the UPA Govt has extended its 'cash-for-votes' scheme to common citizens too, after it was 'test marketed' to JMM MPs ;-)

Ashok Sharma

5 years ago

Why Supreme Court orders are being taken lightly by such gas companies?

Vaibhav Dhoka

5 years ago

Supreme court should take strict contempt action and issue blanket injunction till disposal.

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